When faced with loss, an individual’s reaction to grief or method of coping can be as varied as the individual themselves. In light of the recent events involving the sudden death of a student on campus, counselors at the SUNY New Paltz Psychological Counseling Center have seen just that.
“What I have observed [in response] is a sort of heightened anxiety among friends and one another,” Catherine E. Davies, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) at the Counseling Center said. “There seems to be a little more checking in. ‘Where are my friends, how are they, what are they doing?’ An increased need to stay in contact.”
Davies’ work has her providing students and faculty with psychological support for those who come to seek it at the Counseling Center, which has remained open for grief counseling services since administration informed the campus community of the student’s death in an email sent Thursday night. Together with counselors Sue Acosta, licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and Dave Kasson, PhD., various types of trauma counseling groups are made available at the center.
“One of the things that Sue and I were talking about when we went over to the residence hall [of the deceased student] to check in with students was that one of the difficulties of a loss — an unexpected loss — is trying to make sense of it,” Kasson said. “For some people not being able to make sense out of it is such a frustrating experience that they can act out in a lot of different ways and maybe writing callous things on Facebook or other social media is a part of that.”
According to Acosta, the immediate after effects of a loss could result in a case of acute stress.
“I think [many students’] initial reaction has been numbness. Numbness and shock,” Acosta said. “One of the students said ‘It’s just so big.’ It’s so big for them it doesn’t seem real.”
Acosta said that when dealing with loss an individual may experience survivor’s guilt. According to her, people may find themselves asking questions like “what did I miss, what didn’t I do, what didn’t I see?”
“Events like this bring about an awareness of our own vulnerability, especially with [the loss of] someone so young,” Acosta said. “It makes students think ‘This just happened to someone I just saw in class.’ It makes you aware of your own mortality.”
The counselors advised that if you or someone you know are dealing with feelings of grief to “reach out,” be it to a friend, a resident assistant, counseling center or anyone else you trust to provide you with emotional and psychological support.
“When someone simply avails themselves to you and says ‘Do you need to talk, is there anything you have to say, I’ll listen,’ it is a rewarding experience that tells them you care about them,” Kasson said.